COMMENT: Suspension of the IMEM by Congress Is Only Recommendatory?

By David A. Tauli, Mindanao Coalition of Power Consumers

The Department of Energy (DOE) has been claiming, most recently during a meeting with Mindanao electric power industry stakeholders in Cagayan de Oro on March 27, that the resolution of the House Committee on Energy to suspend the commercial operation of the IMEM is merely recommendatory to the executive branch of the government, so the DOE need not suspend the IMEM in response to the congressional resolution.

Since the IMEM is dead as a competitive market for the supply of electricity, the suspension of its commercial operation by the DOE is a mere formality. A document from the DOE to suspend the IMEM is like the issuance of a death certificate by a medical examiner: whether or not a written document is issued, the patient or victim remains dead.

(A parenthetical explanation on the death of the IMEM as an electricity market needs to be made in light of wishful thinking by the PEMC and the DOE that the IMEM can still be resurrected. A dead market means that there are no buyers and no sellers in that market. All the prospective buyers in a miraculously resurrected IMEM were driven away by the PEMC when they demanded, after the single month of operation that ended December 25, 2013, that the IMEM Customers pay for power supply that had already been paid by the Customers to their normal suppliers.

Prospective sellers in a resurrected IMEM were driven away by the PEMC when they did not pay the generating companies, in the amount of hundreds of millions of pesos, for the generation that was dispatched into the Grid by the IMEM in its single month of operation. And even if new generating plants could be coerced into trying to sell in the resurrected IMEM, they will not be able to sell anything because there are no buyers. The IMEM is a dead market. Or a dead horse. No amount of beating of the IMEM by the DOE and the PEMC is going to make it come alive.)

A written document from the DOE to suspend the IMEM is simply a follow up on the declarations by the DOE on at least two public occasions, one during a hearing on the IMEM by the House Committee of Energy in which those testifying are supposed to tell nothing but the truth, that the commercial operation of the IMEM has been suspended effective for six months starting on December 3, 2013, which was the first day of operation of the IMEM. Or is Secretary Jericho Petilla now going to disown the assertions of his duly-designated representative who attended those events and made the pronouncements?

A resolution by the House of Representatives may be considered by the DOE merely recommendatory and not to be obeyed by an executive agency. (This assertion is reflective of the opinion of the DOE about the legislative branch of government, perhaps taken from the fact that congressional representatives and senators are now being accused of corruption in the handling of the PDAF. But the corruption still needs to be proven in court before anyone can disregard or denigrate the Congress for any of its resolutions.)

Moreover, the House Resolution is not needed for the issuance by the DOE of a department circular affirming prior commitments made by the DOE on the suspension of the IMEM. Issuance of such a circular is simply a case of standing up to one’s word. Assuming that there is any value in the pronouncements of the DOE, whether made orally or in writing, and whether attested to in a formal hearing in Congress or pronounced in a formal meeting among business people.

(David A. Tauli, is president of Mindanao Coalition of Power Consumers He previously worked as a senior vice president of the Cagayan de Oro Electric Company, Inc.)